Sunday, 28 February 2016

Value the Friendships You Make

It's Sulphite Free! 

What I've Been Thinking

Three months ago a dear writing friend passed away, and it's been hard to come to terms with her death, and the knowledge that I won't see her again has made me terribly sad. Sometimes, when I go to the writers group, I look around for her in the coffee bar. I know, that's just plain crazy.

Apart from our mutual love of writing we had much more in common. Photography, walking, history and cake tasting featured a lot during our friendship. We'd spend time chatting about our novels, supping tea and eating cake. We'd discuss ways to deal with errant characters, wayward plots and other writerly topics. And I fondly recall those times now, never quite realising how precious my memories would become.

I attended her funeral, and spoke publicly about her writing life to those gathered, her family and friends, it was very hard. I can't describe how heartsore I felt, as I realised then that I'd never see her again. We weren't going to have another conversation, and I wouldn't hear her read her novel, and there'd be no more time in her company.

In the last year of our friendship, she became ill, and I had mobility problems, but even so we both made the effort to meet up and see each other, although it was much less than before. I'm so, so glad we made the effort.

It's made me realise the obvious. Life is short. It's not like I didn't know this truth before, but like most of us, I lose sight of it from time to time. Then something happens, and it highlights the need to live life to the full. What I'm trying to say - is that sometimes, you never know the value of the moment, until it becomes a memory.

If you've been putting something off that you really want to do - like taking that holiday for writers, self-publishing your novel, or even finishing it! Starting a writers' group, or getting up on stage to perform your work - get on with it!

Follow your dream, and don't neglect your family or friends.
If there's someone you haven't heard from in a while, reach out, contact them and arrange a date to get together. You'll be glad you did.

My Week

I've had a head cold all week, so all exercise was off, as was writing. I've learnt it can't be done with a nose like a dripping tap, and a head that feels like it's about to explode.

By Wednesday it had eased enough for me to take part in #writingchat on Twitter, and things progressed in the right direction from then onwards.

I attended my first Playshuffle this week, which is an event where a bunch of writers, actors and 'voyeurs' turn up over at Derby Theatre, and basically the actors perform scripts they have just been handed by the writers. There is no read through, no rehearsal etc It is simply script in hand and off you go! It was very good, and showed the talents of both actors and writers. I was classed as a 'voyeur', as I went as a guest of another writer who had a script he wanted to hear performed.

As a writer, it's interesting to see, for example if anyone stumbled over their words, in which case you know you need to tweak things, or in the case of the comedy scripts, you could see where people laughed, and where they didn't, and how spaced the laughs were coming.

There were breaks, and you were encouraged to mingle and discuss the acting, writing and anything else you wanted to know. It was an enjoyable evening.

As soon as the bell went to signal the end of the working week on Friday, I zoomed off to the steam room, followed by the jacuzzi and swimming pool. It was very relaxing, and I really enjoyed the silence of being on my own. Afterwards I dined alone too, and it felt good to be in my own company.

#3 Reasons I was grateful last week
  1. Friendship - Doesn't matter if they are online via Twitter, or standing in front of you. Surround yourself with people that make you happy. 
  2.  Wine - My favourite eatery put a sulphite free wine on their list. Hurrah! They listened, and followed through, and now I can enjoy a glass of wine when I want one. And if you're not aware then yes, I'm sulphite sensitive, and you might be too. Read more about this sensitivity HERE .
  3. Warm Clothes - The big fluffy purple dressing gown my son gifted me for Christmas, my fleecy bed socks, and my big warm coat and gloves. Don't know if it's because I've had a cold, but it's been freezing around these parts in the last week. Roll on Springtime! 
The week ahead is going to be busy at work. I'm still getting over the dregs of the cold, so I'm going to take it easy where I can. I've got a pilates session booked, which I'm looking forward to, but anything else will simply be a bonus. 

There will be writing in some form, but I'll have to pace myself, as I want to be on top form for Saturday when I'll be attending a writers workshop in Birmingham organised by the RNA (Romantic Novelist's Association). I'll report back and let you know all about it in my next blog post.

How was your week? And what lies ahead? 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

5 Reasons You Should Be Writing

1. Writing is Relaxing - Chilling out is good for the soul, and the more relaxed you are the better the writing, so they say, so crack open the wine, put on some music, pick up the pen and start scribbling.

2. Remember the Good Old Days - Wouldn't it be great if you found a diary written by one of your grandparents. Tales of everyday life in their day. Stories about their relationships, their friends and family, and who they were as people. So start writing your own family history. Leave a record for future generations, or write your memoir!

3. Writing is Escapism  - And we all need to escape from time to time don't we? You can go anywhere you want to, and become anyone. What are you waiting for?

4. Write to Connect With Your Readers - Start a blog, or rekindle the one you've been neglecting. Maybe you've had an idea outside your usual writing remit. Go for it, start blogging your adult fairy stories, diaries of a bricklayer, or whatever else piques your interest.

5. Explain Something - Write a non-fiction article and educate us about bee keeping or knitting, or your travels around Ireland or wherever or whatever else takes your fancy.

There you are, 5 reasons you should be writing. I'm sure you can think of many more. 

Last Week

The novel is progressing, I adjusted the plan on Saturday afternoon. No more edits for now, it's time to read through the whole thing again and make sure each chapter is doing it's job, either moving the story forward or informing the reader. 

Good Things 
  • Caught up with  a friend for a G & T
  • Laughed out loud when I saw Ed Byrne at Curve Theatre as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival
  • Tea and cake and solitude
  • Stretch Class
  • Good advice from a writing buddy
The week ahead is a a new adventure and I'm looking forward to all that it holds. 
What are you up to? 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Be Thankful

I've had one of those weeks where I've felt put upon, and a little anxious about different things. As the working week closed I felt jaded, a lot of it was beyond my control. It's been hard going, and it made me feel off course and grumpy too. My well laid plans were disrupted. Again.

What I did
  • Almost two hours of editing on the novel (over two VERY early mornings) 
  • Flash Fiction (written on a return train journey when I could of slept instead) 
  • Took part in #writingchat (discussed a subject, I know little about) 
  • Writers Group - Gave feedback to other writers on their manuscripts, and facilitated the Submissions Group
  • Pilates Personal Training session
  • Attended Slimming World session (even though I put weight on! I stayed for the whole session) 
  • Went out for a meal with a friend
  • Had a night out at Leicester Comedy Festival
  • Coffee with a writing buddy
  • Lunch with members of my writing group

For years my way of coping with my crazy mad schedule is to be grateful - grateful for all the good stuff that happens in among the difficult stuff. I simply turn my thinking around, and get rid of the negative stuff.

So when that little voice in my head shouts,  'You're rubbish at novel writing - give it up and admit it would be easier if you went back to short stories.' I take myself to one side and say, 'Okay so you're struggling - get some help. Talk to a writing buddy, enrol on a workshop to learn how to push through, or read one of your writing books and find something you can try.' I re-frame the problem. It's not me, it's the situation and that can be changed.

Tell someone you appreciate them

I've found that if you cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness it spreads and grows. It really is amazing what a small thank you can do. If someone has given you their time, or helped you in some way when they didn't have to, then why not acknowledge what they've done for you. It'll make you feel good too.

Take it a step further and do something good for someone you don't know. Pay an act of kindness forward. If someone has mentored you with your writing, you probably can't repay them, but you can pay it forward. Help someone else. And when someone does do something nice for you, focus on how they brought goodness into your life.

Don't forget to say thank you

So if you're week goes off course too, start saying thank you. It really helps. Say 'thank you' to the person who served your coffee, the man who delivers your groceries, the person who gave you their parking space. You'll feel so much better for it, and it'll make you smile too.

Things I'm grateful for this week
  • All the people who opened doors for me, or carried my luggage when they saw I was struggling.
  • The baristas who served up the coffee that fuelled my days.
  • My birthday cards, best wishes and the lovely gifts I received on the day.
  • The man I shared a taxi with in London who wouldn't let me pay my half.
  • The lady I sat next to at Slimming World who told me not to give up, and the friend who texted to say she wouldn't let me quit! 
  • The friend who lent me an evening bag so that I didn't have to buy one especially. 
  • Breakfast, and lots of writerly chatter with a buddy I haven't seen in a while.
  • The log burner! 
  • The company of strangers
  • An out of the blue email thanking me for my friendliness. 
By writing this list it's made me realise how kind people have been to me in the last week. Stop and think about your own week, I bet you can find lots of reasons to be grateful too.

My plans for the week ahead

To do the best that I can
To further my writing
Another Leicester Comedy Festival Outing
Lunch with a friend

I hope your week was good, and the week ahead is enjoyable. Remember - Be grateful - Start small and find things to be thankful for in all you do this week.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Taking Stock

Sleeping Dog

As the title implies, this post is dedicated to looking back over the last month to see if the masterplan is on track. Masterplan? You know what I mean - the plan I set for myself just over a month ago. Can you believe a month has vanished already? I'm really pleased I've kept a log of what I've been up to because it's so easy to lose track.

I'm at that age where I don't remember things as well, and if I don't write them down, I forget. So looking back, how am I doing? Overall I'm pleased, I'm writing regularly, working on my rewrite, keeping up with the writing group challenges and getting out and about to meet writing buddies too. On the surface all looks good. Except for last week, when I didn't even have time to blog!

A couple of areas need a tweak, one is timing, something I struggle with on and off. My good intentions to write early in the mornings before the day begins are a bit all over the place. Sometimes it really can't be helped as I'm travelling for work and sometimes I set out so early I can't get up any earlier. However, there are days when I could, but I don't. Why not? Some of it is procrastination if I'm honest, and some is tiredness. I've been feeling exhausted lately. Time to be rest I think.

Looking back over the blog I'm able to see my progress, and it's a good feeling, and where I need to make changes I can see that too.

The plan needs a tweak, which means a bigger effort to get more sleep. During the week, all I can do is go to bed at a reasonable time, but at the weekend, I can perhaps try and grab forty winks during the day. What do you think? The sleep foundation recommends planned napping as long as it's no longer than 20-30 minutes. The idea of it is to take a nap before you feel sleepy. Apparently, it improves alertness, and performance without leaving you feeling groggy, or unable to sleep at night. That should hopefully sort out my tiredness, and I'll feel able to write.

The procrastination is a strange one. I know that if I do my writing first thing, it's out of the way for the day and I can get on with work, family stuff etc in the knowledge that I've pushed on with my novel, and can use the rest of the day to think about things too. It's a good plan, but I keep slipping back into bad habits.

Hmm, all I can do is persevere, after all it's not that the writing hasn't been done, I've crammed it in at other times. Like in-between peeling vegetables and waiting for them to steam, or while travelling on the bus, or on a rare afternoon when I'd planned to read for an hour.  I'll sort it, and I'm not going to be hard on myself about it either.

What I've been watching - 

Stan Lee's Lucky Man - A new TV series starring James Nesbit as a Police detective who can control luck. I'll give it a few more episodes, it's definitely different. The jury is still out though.

What I've been listening to - 

Lots! Really enjoying music again.

Talking Heads, Ultravox, Katherine Jenkins, Queen and Rod Stewart.

What I've been reading - 

Slimming Magazine (For inspiration and great recipes!)

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

What I've done - 

Bit the bullet and had my hair cut! I'll put a new profile picture up soon.

Pinned a smile on my face, even when I've not felt like it, and watched the reaction. Which was mostly very positive.

The Week Ahead

More of the same on the writing front - a new group challenge this week. February is our one word challenge which the incoming Chair sets the previous week. Our word last week was 'Bus' and we had 150 words to write a piece of flash fiction. There were many variations on the theme. Some very funny ones.

This week the word is 'lift' and I haven't a clue what I'll write, I'm relying on 'back brain' to work it out whilst I go about my week. I'm sort of resigned to the fact that I'll be writing it last minute. It seems to be my way.

There will be further rewriting, and I'm also going to send a chapter out to a new reader, who hasn't read anything by me before.

As for keeping healthy, and losing weight, I've been stuck at the same weight for the last three weigh in sessions. I had a short break where I ate differently, and included more treats, but I did get back on track quite quickly, so I'm unsure why this has happened as I haven't changed anything. On a positive, at least I haven't put weight on. I had a word with the leader and she has offered some helpful advice and new things to try, so fingers crossed.

 Exercise may have to take a back seat this week as I've quite a schedule.

How did your January go? Pleased with all you achieved? What plans are afoot this week?                                                                                                                                                                                    

Making Things Happen

Bluebells in the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith Nearly two months ago I made this list of goals - See how I've g...